LGBT families of choice are celebrated in “One Stride: Chosen Family,” a newly produced short documentary from Barefoot Wines. Viewers of the film will meet people who have forged loving, familial relationships with people who are not of their blood. The film is divided into three segments.
In the first segment gay activist Richard Leitsch, an octogenarian, recalls the "sip-in" he organized at a New York City bar fifty years earlier--the bar was refusing to serve gay patrons. During the twilight of his life Leitsch enters into a close friendship with Paul Havern, a gay activist who wants to document Leitsch's life stories. When Havern meets and falls in love with Ricardo Guadarrama, Leitsch embraces them both, and the three become an extended family. Leitch is even asked to stand as witness at the wedding of the two young men.
The second segment focuses on Daniela Ricca, a teacher, and Danielle Rizzi, brand ambassador for Barefoot Wines. The two women were best friends who fell in love and married.
"I'm extremely lucky that I had a best friend, that I fell in love with my best friend and that I married my best friend," says Ricca.
"The best relationships come out of friendships," added Rizzi.
In the third segment recording artist Mila Jam and actress MJ Rodriguez, star of the TV series “Pose,” both of whom are transwomen of color, reflect on their deep friendship and the support they get from each other. Rodriguez notes that as transwomen of color they always have a stigma hanging over their heads. Both women express their hope that by seeing them raise each other up others like themselves will be encouraged to stand by their friends.
"Your dreams are my dreams," Jam tells Rodriguez.
The film is a delightfully sweet look at how LGBT people celebrate each other and find community through families of choice. For those who may have lost their biological families due to homophobia, “One Stride: Chosen Family” offers a ray of hope. Simply by reaching out to each other, as Rodriguez and Jam have done, or by extending a hand to someone who may be alone in the world, as Havern and Guadarrama did to the elder Leitsch, LGBT people can forge bonds that are as close as those of any family.
MJ Rodriguez spoke briefly to the Mirror about how she became involved with the project. "Mila called me up and said girl, there's this new documentary and I think we'd be perfect for it," Rodriguez said. "It's shedding light on relationships."
Rodriguez recalls saying that she was "down for it.”
"When I found out that the documentary was being put together by a company that promotes togetherness, I was really happy," she said.
The actress sees parallels between “One Stride: Chosen Family” and “Pose,” the series in which she plays a transgender woman who becomes "mother" to a group of people who share an apartment in 1980s New York City.
"’Pose’ is a show that ventures into the lives of many who are forgotten by their birth families," she said. "But together they were finally able to find a home."
Rodriguez said that she met Mila Jam when she was doing the revival of “Rent” in 2007. "She met me and saw who I truly was," she said. "I knew this was someone I had to have in my life,"
Chosen families are especially important for transgender people, according to Rodriguez. "Because there is so often a lack of acceptance it is more likely for trans people to have chosen families due to being kicked out of their biological homes," she said. "Once that happens there is nothing for them to do but reach out to chosen families."
Rodriguez added that she thought that the other two stories in “One Stride: Chosen Family” are beautiful because they shed a light on different aspects of the community. "It shows how people can come together," she said.
She emphasized the importance of visibility for transgender people, expressing her delight at the visibility she's gotten from “One Stride: Chosen Family” and “Pose.”
"’Pose’ is very relevant to the times we're in right now as far as the trans community in concerned," she said. "But through the chaos there are freedom fighters and ‘Pose’ is part of that fight. It's beautiful entertainment and it fights back against the president. We're trying to open the door to many other demographics and not just keep it in our community. I'm so elated by the positive reception the show has gotten. I couldn't be happier."
As she promotes “One Stride: Chosen Family” and prepares for the second season of “Pose,” Rodriguez offered a message for LGBT youth.
"Be who you are," she said. "Be authentic and truthful. Reach for the stars."
To view “One Stride: Chosen Family” visit: www.barefootwine.com/chosenfamily